|Vol. 20, No. 19||October 15, 1998|
Remembrances and Reflections (continued) . . .
As a medical student at Baylor University School of Medicine, I was in awe of the chairman of the department who had a special parking place in front of the building. On one occasion I, and others, observed him dashing into the building, leaving his car engine running. This led to the embellished story that Dr. DeBakey ALWAYS has a ready car (with motor running) to whisk him off to his next operation, appointment or airplane. Embellished stories frequently retold not only reflect respect and awe, but also become the epitome of hyperbole and exaggeration. Many of the stories I heard as a student were undoubtedly embellished far beyond their origins. I do remember rapid rounds on Dr. DeBakey's more than 100 in-house patients. Anxious residents would precede Dr. DeBakey and tell him the most recent laboratory and clinical findings on each sequential patient, hoping that the nurses had not moved the patients to a new room just before rounds. On one occasion, the resident led the entire entourage into a large broom closet, rather than a patient room. Embarrassingly they all retreated, with not a smile on any face after an obvious attitude adjustment session. In retrospect, this event has certain comic humor, as the resident is now a successful surgeon in Houston.
As a resident, I remember Dr. DeBakey as the master of attention to detail with unimaginable energy and a passion for excellence. After an operative schedule of over 35 patients in one day in four operating rooms, after having food delivered for a tired operative crew, at 12:30 a.m. and at the end of the last case, an invigorated Dr. DeBakey put his head out into an abandoned hall and called out, "....anyone out there need an operation, we have just gotten warmed up."
As faculty, I discovered that Dr. DeBakey listens to a presentation once and has permanent clinical application recall. After one national surgical meeting in the mid-1980s at which time "mediators" and "prostaglandins" were the topic of many papers, and the surgical faculty struggled with application of such "trivia," Dr. DeBakey quietly summarized the entire practical intermediary metabolism of arachidonic acids and the action of the then known cytokines. The faculty was speechless. I took notes, to later verify that he was 100 percent on target. We never knew how, with his busy schedule, he always knew more than all of the rest of us combined.
- Kenneth L. Mattox, M.D., Chief of Staff, Ben Taub General HospitalProfessor of Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine
One day, soon after I had signed on as the Houston Chronicle's medical writer, I needed to interview Dr. DeBakey quickly by telephone. I put the request in to Baylor College of Medicine's public relations office and sat down to wait. No more than 30 minutes later, the telephone rang and a soft voice said, "Mrs. SoRelle, this is Mike DeBakey." I was dumbfounded. Not only had he called me back quickly, but he had placed the telephone call himself. Because my mother was a cardiac care nurse and I had grown up no more than 90 miles from Houston, I was imbued enormous respect for him as a surgeon and a physician. I guess I expected some kind of fanfare before the telephone rang. He must have understood because he carefully led me through my questions.
Years later, while I was visiting Zambia in southeast Africa, I came to understand his true celebrity. A young physician at the University Hospital in Lusaka asked me where I lived. "Houston," I said. "Ah," she said with a gleam of white teeth. "DeBakey."
But I will never forget his kindness the time I brought my 13-year-old son to an interview with me. Richard was considering which high school to attend, and he was confused. But he really wanted to meet Dr. DeBakey. Dr. DeBakey greeted him, asked a few questions about where he was in school and then we got down to business. As Dr. DeBakey and I talked, Richard sat quietly. From that, I could tell he was interested. Dr. DeBakey is a great raconteur, and Richard can recite some of what he heard at that interview today. But it was a mark of the impression that Dr. DeBakey left that Richard attended the High School for Health Professions, now the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions. He will graduate this year. We were talking about that interview recently, and Richard said, "You know, that was the pivotal moment of my life."
- Ruth SoRelle, Medical Writer, Houston Chronicle
More than any single person, Dr. Michael DeBakey made The Methodist Hospital what it is today. It isn't just his contributions to heart care, it is the excellence he has symbolized that has brought into the hospital so many other physicians, so many specialties and so many patients. If there was ever an individual who had a true halo effect on an institution, he has. Such a man has uncommon attributes. In the case of Dr. DeBakey:
He is a learner. He is a creator.
He is energetic and alert. He sees what might be. He is a student. He is a teacher. He is a mentor. He is a communicator. He is a tough competitor - focused, disciplined, result-oriented. He is compassionate. He cares. He serves.
Many of history's world leaders can lay claim to some of these attributes. Dr. DeBakey has all of them, and is at the top of a very short list of individuals who have touched so many, in so many ways for so long. At age 90, he's energetic, focused, alert and always engaged. Dr. DeBakey seems to always be in the right place at the right time, which is practically everywhere. It would surprise no one if his best is yet to come.
Congratulations and thank you, Dr. DeBakey, for sharing your talents, energy and heart with us.
- Peter Butler, President and CEO, Methodist Health Care System
When I think of Dr. Michael DeBakey, I think of someone who has been actively involved with indigent health care for years. In fact, when I started my career as an emergency room nurse at Jefferson Davis Hospital in 1957, Dr. DeBakey, who had been with Baylor University College of Medicine for approximately 10 years, was already in full support of providing indigent medical health care. Dr. DeBakey and the late Ben Taub, then chairman of the Jefferson Davis board of managers, were of one mind that a public hospital system could and should offer the highest quality care to its patients. And so in a two-hour meeting they initiated a plan for Jefferson Davis to become the teaching facility of Baylor College of Medicine.
I was impressed by the ambition, drive and the vision of Dr. DeBakey. It was their joint persistence that made it possible for a public hospital to be included as part of the Texas Medical Center. At that time some people simply did not want any type of a public hospital built near the expensive neighborhoods around the TMC.
By the mid-1960s the name Dr. Michael E. DeBakey had become synonymous with excellence in cardiovascular surgery. He had gained worldwide fame for his surgical innovations. As his legacy grew so did the reputation of Baylor College of Medicine. After being named in 1948 as chairman of surgery and later as the school's president, Dr. DeBakey influenced, initiated or coerced many changes that resulted in positive growth for Baylor and eventually for the Harris County Hospital District.
I am proud and privileged to have worked with and known Dr. DeBakey, someone who has contributed enormously to the field of medicine, brought international acclaim to Baylor and made it possible for indigent health care to make tremendous strides in Houston, Texas.
- Lois Moore, President and CEO, Harris County Hospital District
English Translation of Russian Edition of
You have in your hands the book written by Dr. Michael DeBakey - a man with a gift of performing miracles.
Life is harsh on the human heart. Life's numerous stresses take a very heavy toll on the heart. Nobody is spared. Sometimes a moment comes when there is a danger of cardiac arrest. In this case, neither family nor friends can be of help. It all remains in the hands of Providence and also - the physician.
In the fall of 1996, after a stressful election campaign, I was in need of heart surgery. One of the first to come to my aid was Professor Michael DeBakey.
When I first met Michael DeBakey, he was thought to be 88 years old, almost 70 of which dedicated to medicine. He impressed me with his inexhaustible physical vigor, his optimism, and his clearness of mind. The gratitude expressed by the innumerable patients he has cured has probably stimulated his continued high energy and productivity.
Michael DeBakey - an entire era in 20th century medicine. His profound knowledge of contemporary surgical technology has endowed him with a magical capacity to cure people with cardiovascular problems. I witnessed the respect showed to him by Professor Renat Akchurin, another medical star, who performed my surgery.
Not only Dr. DeBakey's patients, but millions of people in the world enjoy good health due to the genius of this remarkable physician.
Professor DeBakey's book A New Life for the Heart is now published in the Russian language. Now the Russian people will be better exposed to the experiences and the achievements of one of the leading physicians of our time. It is possible that this book will provide to some an additional ray of hope. It will strengthen their faith in healing and returning to a new life.
Indeed, this book has already been of great help to me.
My thankful wishes for success with this edition. To the author - I wish many years of productivity and new achievements. To the readers - good health and happiness.
©2006 Texas Medical Center